Can Women Be Color Blind?

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Colorblindness is common in the male sex, but does that mean only men experience it? Can women be colorblind?

Colorblindness is often linked to certain genes. Whether a person is colorblind has to do with how the condition is inherited.

While most cases of color vision deficiency are the result of genetics, there are also non-genetic causes of colorblindness.

This article will go over why colorblindness happens. You'll also learn why males and females can be colorblind.

Colorblindness By the Numbers

According to the Colorblind Awareness organization, about 1 in 200 women worldwide are colorblind compared to 1 in 12 men.

There are several types of color vision deficiency. Some affect men more than women.

  • Red-green colorblindness is the most common and happens more in males than females. It’s also most common in males of Northern European descent.
  • Both men and women can have blue-yellow color vision deficiency, but it’s much rarer.
  • Blue cone monochromacy, a rare form of colorblindness, is associated with vision defects as well. It is more common in males. 

Colorblindness Genes

The genes involved in colorblindness are:

  • OPN1LW
  • OPN1MW
  • OPN1SW

All three of these genes are essential for normal color vision. Mutations (genetic changes) involving these genes can contribute to color vision defects.

How Females Inherit Colorblindness

How you inherit colorblindness depends on whether the genes responsible for it are on the sex chromosomes (X and Y) or the autosomes (non-sex linked chromosomes), and whether it is expressed as dominant or recessive.

Can Females Have X-Linked Recessive Forms of Colorblindness?

Red-green colorblindness and blue cone monochromacy are inherited in an X-linked recessive pattern. The genes responsible for both of these conditions, OPN1LW, and OPN1MW, are located on the X chromosome. Because people who are genetically male have only a single X chromosome, having the mutation on their only X chromosome can cause the condition.

Women are less likely to get X-linked recessive forms of colorblindness if they are biologically female. However, it is possible for a woman who is a genetic female to have X-linked recessive forms of colorblindness.

For this to occur, they need to inherit two genes: one X-linked trait from their father and another X-linked trait from their carrier mother.

People who are genetically female have two X chromosomes. Having a normal gene on one X chromosome would override the recessive mutation on the other X chromosome. The mutation would need to be present on both X chromosomes to result in the condition. This has a low likelihood of occurring.

Fathers can’t pass down X-linked recessive traits to their sons because their genetic contribution to a male offspring is a Y chromosome, not an X. However, they can pass these traits on to their daughters, to whom they contribute an X chromosome.

Can Females Have Autosomal Dominant Colorblindness?

A woman can have autosomal dominant colorblindness if they inherit the gene from either parent.

Blue-yellow color blindness is passed on via an autosomal dominance pattern that is not sex-linked. It can be passed to an offspring by either genetic parent. A single copy of the genetic change (in this case, OPN1SW) is enough to cause the disorder.

In the case of blue-yellow color vision, people have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the condition from a parent who has it. It can also happen due to a new gene mutation.

Can Females Have Autosomal Recessive Colorblindness?

Achromatopsia is a severe form of colorblindness. It is rare in any person, regardless of their genetic sex. Only 1 in 30,000 people worldwide have this condition.

People with achromatopsia can’t see any colors. Those with this condition only see black, white, and shades of grey in between. Unlike other forms of color vision deficiency, it can also cause vision issues such as light sensitivity, limited visual acuity, farsightedness, and nearsightedness.

A woman can have achromatopsia because it is inherited via an autosomal recessive pattern. That means both parents have to have the recessive gene to pass it down. However, in some cases of achromatopsia, the cause is unknown.

Risk Factors

You’re more likely to be colorblind if:

  • Someone in your family is colorblind 
  • You have an eye disease
  • You take medications with colorblindness as a side effect 
  • You have a brain or nervous system disease like multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • You are White

Other Causes of Colorblindness in Women

Color vision deficiency that is not caused by genes is called an acquired vision deficiency. It can happen to a person of any sex.

Potential non-genetic causes of color blindness include:

  • Certain drugs 
  • Chemical exposure 
  • Eye disorders  
  • Damage to the optic nerve
  • Damage to areas of the brain that are responsible for visual processing 

Color vision can also diminish as you get older, regardless of your sex. In cases of non-genetic colorblindness, your eyes might be affected differently.

Diseases that can cause color blindness include:

Medications that can cause color vision deficiency include:

  • Hydroxychloroquine 
  • Certain antipsychotics 
  • Ethambutol, an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis

To find out if you are colorblind, make an appointment with your eye doctor. They can perform a noninvasive test to determine whether you have some form of color vision deficiency. It’s crucial to diagnose children early so that they can get help and accommodations in the classroom and elsewhere.

Summary

Colorblindness is more common in people who are genetically male because of how the condition is inherited. Women can also be colorblind, but it's less common. A woman who is genetically female can inherit different combinations of genes linked to colorblindness. Women can also be colorblind because of non-genetic causes and have age-related changes to their color vision.

A Word From Verywell

While it's more common for men to be colorblind, women can be colorblind too. It's important for people of any sex to understand how colorblindness is passed down and what it means to have these conditions.

For a lot of people, color blindness is not a serious condition and doesn’t cause any harmful side effects. However, a diminished ability to detect colors can make it difficult to recognize things like traffic lights—so you would need to learn how to stay safe.

If a person loses their color vision later in life, they could have an underlying condition causing the problem.

There’s no cure for colorblindness, but there are ways to adjust and live with a color vision deficiency. It’s essential to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist or an optometrist if you notice any changes in your vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does color blindness come from Mom or Dad?

    Different forms of colorblindness are linked to different genes. Some of them are linked to genes that are only passed down by genetic males (in this case, fathers). Others only happen if a person inherits an affected gene from both parents.

  • Can a man with normal vision have a color-blind daughter?

    In most cases, no. A genetically female child needs to inherit an affected gene from both parents to be color blind. That said, a person can have non-genetic causes of colorblindness.

  • How rare is it for a woman to be color blind?

    About 1 in 100 women are color blind. By comparison, color blindness happens to about 1 in 12 men.

  • What percentage of females are color blind?

    Colorblindness in females is not common. Data from a 2014 study of preschool children found that only about 0-0.5% of females were colorblind.

  • Can girls be red/green color blind?

    For a child who is genetically female to be red/green color blind, they need to get an affected gene from both parents.

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11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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